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May 5th, 2014

Memo From Frank & Dave

bottom: 10px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"> I have driven through hundreds of RV parks over the past 20 years. Some of them are terrible – just some utility poles in a flat field with dirt roads. Others are unbelievably nice with concrete streets, stores, over-the-top pools, miniature golf – you name it. So what does it take to make a winning RV park? Probably the most important feature is location. The #1 RV parks in the U.S. are called “destination” parks, and that means that people are heading there for the surrounding activities, not just what’s inside the RV park. I would take an RV park next to Six Flags with no infrastructure any day over a fancy RV park in the middle of nowhere. So while amenities are important, don’t be fooled into thinking that they are the whole story. Remember that the first rule of real estate is “location, location, location” – and it’s no different for RV parks.

How Fancy Does An RV Park Have To Be?

French Royalty RV Park

There are many types of RV parks out there. Some are nothing more than converted lots in old mobile home parks, and others are top-of-the-line properties with a million amenities. So the question is, how fancy does an RV park have to be to be successful?

Location. Location, location is the primary ingredient

RV parks are a sector of real estate, the importance of location in real estate is well known. A successful RV park will have what’s called a “destination” location. This means that people seek out the RV park because it’s in the heart of something that attracts people to want to be there. Examples of destination locations are national parks, major activities like Six Flags, and areas that offer warm weather in a cold winter and visa-versa. With high gas prices, RV owners are selecting destination locations and just staying there. They have not reduced the number of days they spend in their RV, but they are not moving around as much.

Drive-thru lots are very important

Nothing is a bigger turn-off for larger fifth-wheels and motorhomes than not having “pull-thru” lots. With a “pull-thru” lot, you simple drive onto the lot and, when you leave, put the gear shift into “drive” and pull forward and out of the lot. The old time lots are what are called “back-in”. If you have to shift into reverse to get into the lot, then you just lost a lot of customers.

Reasonable amenities

Some RV park owners went overboard and. Although they won’t admit it, they know that there are many amenities that are not really needed. The amenities that all successful RV parks have in common include a pool, store, pavilion, basketball court, and other simple activity options. A fishing lake is another good one. But you don’t need crystal chandeliers or a baseball diamond. Remember that the customer is there for more than just your park. The park is important, but it’s often not the real draw to staying there. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park near the Six Flags in St. Louis has lots of amenities, but people stay there to go to Six Flags, so they don’t have to have their own amusement park. Overkill can include services like live musical entertainment and fancy pool waterfalls.


RV parks need amenities, but not an insanely large offering of activities. If you have a destination location, you’re going to do well. If you don’t, then having 100 different swimming pools won’t make your occupancy hit its goals.

This Is Not Your Typical Buyer

Xanterra, the company that has purchased the exclusive rights to lodging at Glacier National Park in northwest Montana, has bought the Canyon RV park, to make it into employee housing. All 56 lots will be utilized to house the workers at the motels and charter bus company for Glacier National Park. We’ve heard of RV parks selling to other RV park operators, but we’ve never heard of an RV park being converted into corporate housing before. But, of course, it actually makes sense. When you look at the cost to build apartments versus buy RVs, this is a win/win decision for both the RV park owner and the company.

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